83rd Annual

Sunday, 9 February 2003
Meteorology Education through Nature Centers
Sue Ellen Haupt, Utah State University, Logan, UT; and J. J. Barta
Poster PDF (226.0 kB)
Nature Centers are an excellent means of educating the public about natural science. They reach a wide audience with an age range varying from preschoolers through adults. Many of these centers do a wonderful job of educating in such areas as biology, geology, and environmental science; however, it is seldom that one sees a nature center exhibit or program that emphasizes physical science or mathematics. This project seeks to rectify this missing element by developing displays and programs that use meteorology to exemplify physical science and mathematics in the natural world. When people learn about physical science and mathematics in an informal setting, they see the relevance and applicability of that which they learn.

In a collaborative project with the Stokes Nature Center in Logan Canyon, Utah and Campbell Scientific, a manufacturer of premier meteorological instruments, integrative, interactive displays and programs were developed and piloted. The displays and programs use the natural themes observable in the surrounding environment with a goal of helping children and adults learn important mathematical and scientific principles centered on the study of weather and climate. The centerpiece of the education programs and displays is a weather station sited near the Nature Center. This station presents a display within the Nature Center and includes interpretative plots of the data. Data are integrated with other data from nearby stations. Displays are included to explain the weather and climate of the region.

Additionally, a curriculum has been developed for visiting school groups and for teachers who wish to develop classroom meteorology units. Physical Science and Mathematics State Core Curriculum objectives are integrated in the presentation and study of meteorology through hands-on displays and experiments. Teachers are given a pre-site curriculum designed to enable groups of students to become experts in a particular aspect of meteorology (atmospheric pressure, cloud cover and type, wind speed and direction, humidity and precipitation, plus solar radiation). When the students visit the Nature Center for the on-site program, they are reorganized into groups that include an expert in each aspect. The groups continue to learn and observe environmental variables using both simple and complex instruments. Groups of students are aided in integrating and interpreting their observations and data. Students use this integrated picture to predict the next day's weather and its impact on outdoor activities. Teachers then follow-up in the classroom to assess the children's predictions. The post-site curriculum gives students the opportunity to further investigate areas that most interest them in meteorology, mathematics, and the technology of measuring environmental variables. In this way, school children learn about meteorology in the natural environment plus use mathematical skills to put their newfound knowledge to work.

The programs and displays have been piloted and feedback indicates a high level of success. Teachers had a high level of satisfaction with the program. In addition, the children deem the program to be fun, effective learning.

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